- Middlemarch by George Eliot
It was a long read, but worth the time I spent reading through it. What I loved most about it was the absolute brilliant character building and the revelation of character information. Virginia Woolf is quoted to say it’s ‘one of the few English novels written for grown-up people’. And though there’s much debate on what she meant, I believe it’s all in the characters. They are displayed with virtues and vices and then we see them played out. We pity Fred, who just can’t get it together, because we see his virtue in when he fails. I like to think it’s a lot closer to how human relationships work. It’s also in the way we see characters making the “right” choice and realizing the right choice isn’t always the best or the happiest.
- Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
This book changed my philosophy on the craft of writing, which I talked a bit about in a recent post (here.) To sum it up: writing is something you have to work hard on and most importantly, the sentences you make must be paid attention to.
- Without End: New and Selected Poems & A Defense of Ardor: Essays by Adam Zagajewski
I’m cheating and putting these two together because I read them at the same time (and they have the same author.) I recommend reading them together as I did. The essays inspired me to reach for the beauty of the world. To teach myself to appreciate what is ultimately better. We have opinions, but we must remember they are just opinions. My professor use to use the example of music: classical music is better than pop, regardless of your opinion, not because it’s older, but because of what it’s composed of. Music has multiple parts and pop tends to lean heavily on rhythm, whereas classical music uses more of what music is as a whole (rhythm, harmony, melody, etc., because I’m not that knowledgeable on music!) There is elevated literature. Persuasion by Jane Austen is ultimately better than Fifty Shades of Grey (this should be obvious.) He has an essay titled after the book that pushes the reader to appreciate and recognize when something is better, even if you don’t personally enjoy it. This brings me to the poems. I use to be so impatient when it came to poetry that I often didn’t want to read them, but as I read the essays (at the time I was reading Coleridge as well, so I was also being convinced that poetry was the most elevated form of language) I realized I wanted to appreciate poetry. It took a long time and a lot of rereading, but I have come to love Zagajewski’s poetry and consider him a favorite.
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
With this short story I was simply amazed at Conrad’s ability to write about the Congo so beautifully. Most of all, his dialogue that felt more like a look into the human soul. My favorite quote of dialogue, (QOTD), explores the thought of loneliness in a starkly real way. By reading this story I learned that dialogue doesn’t have to be simple, or even a real conversation. It can be an exploration of an idea while telling a story.
- Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides
Nonfiction at its absolute best. It was as if my grandfather was telling me his account of the war and not leaving one detail out, nor forgetting to tell me what happened to any comrade he mentioned. The entire story was treated with care and love toward the people he wrote about. I loved reading nonfiction before, but I had never come across one so…brought to life. I find that historical nonfiction can be tedious at times and even monotone, but Ghost Soldiers pushed through that and made every detail count. He didn’t toss in the boring stuff just because it had to be in the book, he let it intertwine with the story and it worked.
Tender is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (because I thought Fitzgerald was overrated before reading this novel.)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (because it was the first book that brought me to love reading)